One-On-One With Paul Westphal

He was one of the greatest players in Phoenix Suns history, a four-time All-Star, who helped lead the club to its first-ever NBA Finals appearance in 1976. He was also one of the most successful coaches during the franchise's first 33 years, guiding the Suns back to the Finals for the second time in 1993.

In all, Paul Westphal spent 13 and a half seasons with the Suns' organization, averaging more than 20 points a game as the team's starting off-guard, and helping to direct Phoenix to seven-straight postseason appearances as both an assistant and head coach.

For more evidence of the influence he had on the franchise, one need only flip through the team's official media guide. On page 86, his 48- and 49-point performances rank fifth and sixth among Suns' top scoring nights. On page 118, his name is listed four times under an All-NBA headline. On page 120, the Suns' two best regular season records are beside his name in the column of coaches. And on page 225, his picture is found next to the retired jersey No. 44.

On Sunday, April 1, Paul Westphal returns to Phoenix. The man known as "Westy" will be in attendance at America West Arena for the induction of longtime athletic trainer Joe Proski into the team's Ring of Honor. But first, he joined for a live chat.

Adam from [], at 1:02pm ET
All the other Ring of Honor members have been asked... Who would win a one-on-one tournament if you all played each other?

Paul Westphal at 1:03pm ET
The guy that's not in the Ring of Honor, Charles Barkley. He's the best player.
Chuck Fan from [], at 1:03pm ET
Having coached Charles Barkley, I'm wondering what your thoughts are on him possibly playing next season?

Paul Westphal at 1:03pm ET
I think he's just getting everyone talking about him and having fun doing it. And we're falling right into it. He's not playing.

Paul Westphal at 1:04pm ET
At this stage, he probably wouldn't even be the first guy picked in a pick-up game at the Y.
Patick from [], at 1:04pm ET
Joe Proski seems like a real character. Was he as colorful as he's always described?

Paul Westphal at 1:04pm ET
Joe enjoyed being different. That's pretty much what everyone would say about him -- he'd look for a way to have a little different take on things, just to keep things interesting.
Jeff from [], at 1:04pm ET
What was the funniest thing that Joe Proski ever did during your career?

Paul Westphal at 1:06pm ET
It's hard to pick out one funny thing -- it's more just that he was funny. He was just a character. He'd look at things a little differently and with a humorous bend -- he was just a funny guy. He made up t-shirts of himself and handed them out. I still have mine -- it was hard to get anything for free from Joe.
dusty from [], at 1:06pm ET
Which Suns team would come out on top if they played against each other, the 1975-76 Suns or the 1992-93 Suns?

Paul Westphal at 1:06pm ET
Barkley's team would have won ... they had much better coaching for one thing.
Old School Jimmy from [], at 1:06pm ET
What do you remember most from the 76 Finals with the Celtics?

Paul Westphal at 1:07pm ET
I think that Game 5 that everybody talks about as being the greatest game ever played in the NBA. It was a privilege to be involved in that, though it's still disappointing because I think of little things we could have done differently to win that game. That whole series was very special, and the fifth game is something that I can't forget.
tony from [], at 1:07pm ET
was there any significance behind you wearing no. 44 as a player?

Paul Westphal at 1:08pm ET
I admired Jerry West a lot growing up in L.A., but the real significance was that when I was drafted by the Celtics, they'd retired so many that they didn't have any left!
Jenny B. from [], at 1:08pm ET
You played back when, you've coached the young guys of today... is there really any difference between the players of yesterday and today?

Paul Westphal at 1:09pm ET
I think that the league is so different that it creates a different mindset. There's not really an inherent difference -- circumstances allow players to put themselves out front a little more than they used to. The long-term contracts have changed the way players look at things sometimes, but basketball players are still basketball players.
Joe from [], at 1:10pm ET
What do you remember about your own retirement ceremony?

Paul Westphal at 1:10pm ET
It was just a nice time of reflection. It was great to have a lot of people who were important in my life gathered at the same time. It was a time to get a lot of people together that ordinarily wouldn't be gathered, so it was like a reunion for me.
Slammin Joe from [], at 1:10pm ET
Which player did you enjoy coaching the most in career?

Paul Westphal at 1:11pm ET
That's a tough one -- I'd hate to single anybody out. I don't think there's any way to answer that.
Amy from [], at 1:11pm ET
What are you up to these days? Will we see you in the coaching ranks again?

Paul Westphal at 1:12pm ET
I hope so. Right now I'm in the process of unpacking boxes -- I've moved back to Southern California, re-establishing a homebase here, and we'll see what happens when the musical chairs start up again.
JON from [], at 1:12pm ET

Paul Westphal at 1:13pm ET
I would say the best player I played with was John Havlicek, and against -- it's funny -- I played against both Wilt Chamberlain and Michael Jordan. I played against Michael when the Olympic team came and played, so perhaps that doesn't really count. Kareem would probably be the guy who in his prime was the best player I ever played against.
JON from [], at 1:13pm ET

Paul Westphal at 1:14pm ET
It was really an unforgettable experience. He was a superstar who had a humility about him that helped the other players on the team succeed. He was a great leader and a great competitor and a great teammate. The league really could use superstars who all have the same professionalism that he had.
Slammin Joe from [], at 1:14pm ET
What rule changes, if any, do you think the NBA should adopt in the near future to make it a better game.

Paul Westphal at 1:17pm ET
I've got a lot of them -- I'm kind of mad they didn't ask me to be on the committee! I think they should lengthen and widen the court -- the players are so much bigger and quicker that that would help a lot. It'd help fast break basketball and allow more room. I think it's important to get rid of most of the illegal defense guidelines. And a few minor things ... I think it's kind of automatic to foul people if they get a steal - there should be more of a penalty when teams do that. So I'd start there, and I'd be surprised if the committee didn't look at those at some point. I don't know if they will address making the court bigger, but I think it'd be a real good solution.
TxMx from [] at 1:17pm ET
Do you think expansion in the NBA has made a weaker league then it was when you played?

Paul Westphal at 1:17pm ET
No, not at all. There are so many more people playing basketball now than back then and the talent level is so high that I don't think it's weakened the game at all.
Bison from [], at 1:17pm ET
Do you follow the Suns at all now? What are your thoughts on their current team? Can they compete in the West?

Paul Westphal at 1:18pm ET
I follow the whole league, and I think the Suns have competed in the West. They've been racked with injuries and they're holding up very well. I don't think they can win the West, especially given the injuries they've suffered.
Lenny from [], at 1:18pm ET
How would you compare those two triple-overtime games you participated in, the one in '76 against the Celtics and the one in '93 against the Bulls?

Paul Westphal at 1:19pm ET
The one in '93 was much better -- the good guys won that one. Anytime you're in the NBA Finals and the game is close, it's really an exciting thing. I don't think you could ask for anything more in either one of those games as a participant or a spectator.
TxMx from [] at 1:19pm ET
If you were to begin coaching there any player in the league right now you would like to coach?

Paul Westphal at 1:20pm ET
There are so many. There are some phenomenal young players, but again, I can't pick out one. I like all-around, versatile players. Garnett, Duncan, Webber -- they're so versatile and they all seem to have a big impact on their teams winning a lot of games. Those are the kind of guys that I think everyone wants to start a team with.
Bobby from [], at 1:20pm ET
Of all the coaches you played for, who do you think you're most like as a coach?

Paul Westphal at 1:21pm ET
I try to take something from everyone I've been exposed to - including those I never played for - - going back to Ken Brown, my high school coach, to Red Holzman, Tom Heinsohn, Red Auerbach, Lenny Wilkens -- I try to take as much as I can from all those guys.
Joe from [], at 1:22pm ET
Are you going to speak at Joe Proski's retirement ceremony? If so, have you thought about what you'll say yet?

Paul Westphal at 1:22pm ET
I expect to be speaking and I'd be honored to talk for Joe. In fact, I've held back some of my best stories today because I'm saving them for his ceremony.
JON from [], at 1:22pm ET

Paul Westphal at 1:22pm ET
I think San Antonio, but Philadelphia has a great shot too. They're more likely to come out of the East and at least be in the Finals, and if you get there, you can win.
JON from [], at 1:23pm ET

Paul Westphal at 1:24pm ET
Elgin Baylor. He just had a way of attacking the basket that I particularly enjoyed. I grew up in L.A., and the Lakers moved there when I was 9 or 10, and there was Elgin Baylor doing all these fantastic things. He was just fun to watch and fun to emulate.
Madelyn from [], at 1:24pm ET
What other former Suns players do you think belong in the Ring of Honor? Hornacek? Majerle? Barkley?

Paul Westphal at 1:25pm ET
I already mentioned No. 34 -- I think he's the obvious one at this time. And I'm sure there are some guys playing now who will be honored when they're through playing. I'm a big Jason Kidd fan for example, and I can't imagine him not being in there.
Sammy Mac from [], at 1:25pm ET
What was your most memorable moment with the Suns' organization?

Paul Westphal at 1:26pm ET
The year we went to the Finals, Game 7 of the Conference Finals when we beat Seattle. Tom Chambers' career was winding down then, but he had a big game, and we won that game to go the Finals. It meant so much to the organization, and it really meant a lot to me to see Tom have the biggest game of the year in the game that meant the most to the franchise. To me, that was the most memorable time.
HoopMan from [], at 1:26pm ET
Hey paul,

Are there any college coaching jobs out there that interest you?

Paul Westphal at 1:27pm ET
I'm interested in staying in basketball, whether as a college coach or in the front office or as an NBA coach. I think I'll fit someplace, but as far as when or where that will be, I don't know right now.
manny from [], at 1:27pm ET
who was the best point guard you ever played with? was it don buse?

Paul Westphal at 1:27pm ET
When I played, point guards and off guards -- there wasn't a delineation between them, you were just a guard. So I never really played with a pure point guard. He was a good player, very unselfish and efficient.
JK32 from [], at 1:28pm ET
Who is the best point man in the NBA today Glove, Steph, JKidd, JWill, somebody else?

Paul Westphal at 1:29pm ET
It's hard to answer that without some kind of a caveat. Iverson is certainly an MVP candidate, though he's not necessarily a point guard. I'm a big Jason Kidd fan -- he makes the players around him better and he really enjoys getting the ball to the other guys, so I'd say him.
Old School Jimmy from [], at 1:29pm ET
Have you thought of getting into broadcasting? you seem to have an interesting take on things...

Paul Westphal at 1:29pm ET
I've thought of it and rejected it. If I'm going to get on the plane, I want to be involved in the competition, not just sitting on the sidelines.

Paul Westphal at 1:30pm ET
Thanks for all the good questions.

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